Hong Kong riot police in running battles with pro-democracy protesters

Hong Kong riot police in running battles with pro-democracy protesters who torched metro stations across the embattled territory

  • Pro-democracy demonstrators threw petrol bombs at stations across Hong Kong
  • Hundreds of protesters had taken to the streets in masks amid demonstrations
  • Mass protests began in June in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill

Riot police took to the streets of Hong Kong on Saturday as pro-democracy demonstrators threw petrol bombs and vandalised metro stations amid months of protests in the region. 

Hundreds of protesters defied police warnings that they were gathering illegally as they met to launch petrol bombs and damage several metro stations in Hong Kong.

The rallies in Kowloon and a small gathering of retirees outside police headquarters maintained pressure on the city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, to bend to the movement’s demands ahead of her annual policy address on Wednesday.

Hundreds of protesters had been marching towards a district near Kowloon West when a petrol bomb was launched inside the Kowloon Tong station. The station was said to be seriously damaged in the attack but police confirmed no one had been injured. 

Petrol bombs were also thrown outside stations in Lai Chi Kok and Sham Shui Po as hundreds of protesters in masks took to the streets.

A protester throws a petrol bomb at the entrance of MTR station during a protest in Hong Kong

A woman scuffles with anti-government demonstrators during a protest against the invocation of the emergency laws in Hong Kong

Demonstrators were also seen in skirmishes with the public as hundreds took part in an anti-emergency law march from Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po.

Outside police headquarters, about 200 people, many of them retirees, also gathered peacefully, some shouting abuse at plainclothes officers who did not intervene. 

Around 300 people gathered for a rally at a shopping mall in the Sha Tin district, writing ‘FREEHK’ on the white linoleum floor.

‘The protesters are participating in an unauthorized assembly, which constitutes an offence under the Hong Kong Laws. The police appeal to the protesters to stop all illegal acts and leave immediately,’ police said.

The majority of protesters wore masks over their mouths in defiance of a week-old ban that makes face coverings punishable by one year in jail when worn at rallies. 

Hong Kong’s protests began in June in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of accused criminals to mainland China.

Police officers carry shields and wear helmets as a protest against the invocation of the emergency laws takes place

Protesters take part in an anti-emergency law march from the Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po areas of Hong Kong

A sign on the ground reads ‘if you want peace prepare for war’ as demonstrators walk through  Hong Kong

Over four months, the demonstrations have evolved into a pro-democracy movement and an outlet for anger at social inequality in the Asian financial hub.

The protests have plunged the city into its worst crisis since Britain handed it back to China in 1997. They also mark the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. 

Hong Kong had experienced relative calm since last weekend, when a peaceful march by tens of thousands spiralled into a night of running battles between protesters and police. 

Since then, there had been minor protests in the evenings and activists had not flagged any major action this weekend. 

A small group calling itself the ‘Silver-Haired Marchers’ began a 48-hour sit-in at police headquarters on Saturday, describing themselves as ‘old but not obsolete’. 

Hong Kong riot police stand guard as protests take place again across the region

The majority of protesters wore masks over their mouths in defiance of a week-old ban that makes face coverings punishable by one year in jail

Hong Kong’s protests began in June in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of accused criminals to mainland China

‘The young people have already sacrificed a lot, it is about time for us, the senior citizens in Hong Kong to come forward to take up part of the responsibility from the young people,’ 63-year-old Shiu told local media.   

‘I mean for us, even if we are caught by the police because of an illegal gathering, I don’t mind,’ he added.

Emergency laws were introduced a week ago banning face masks at public rallies, sparking some of the worst violence since the protests started.

However, hundreds of people including school children and office workers have since defied the ban. 

Hundreds of protesters had been marching towards a district near Kowloon West when a petrol bomb was launched inside the Kowloon Tong station (pictured)

Police officers block the street during a protest against the invocation of the emergency laws in Hong Kong

A woman tries to remove a facemask worn by a protesters after an anti-emergency law march from the Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po

Around 300 people gathered for a rally at a shopping mall in the Sha Tin district, writing ‘FREEHK’ on the white linoleum floor

Hong Kong’s police, once praised as ‘Asia’s finest’, are also facing a crisis of confidence amid the worsening political tensions. 

Protesters accuse them of using excessive force, a charge police deny, and two protesters have been shot and wounded during skirmishes with police.

Apple removed an app from its store this week which reportedly helped protesters track police movements, claiming it was used to target officers. 

Several US senators have called for halting and even banning US tear gas exports to Hong Kong amid the protests.

Anti-government protesters wear masks during a demonstration in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s police, once praised as ‘Asia’s finest’, are also facing a crisis of confidence amid the worsening political tensions 

A young man wears an Iron Man face mask as he takes part in protests in Hong Kong

On October 1, when China marked the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, police said they deployed a record level of force, including 1,400 rounds of tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live rounds.

Sales of tear gas to Hong Kong were equivalent to supporting efforts of the Chinese president to ‘harm ordinary citizens and peaceful protesters’, said US Republican Senator Rick Scott in a letter to a US firm exporting tear gas to Hong Kong.

He urged the firm on Thursday to ‘put human rights above profits’.

Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade due to the protests, with tourism and retail hardest hit.

Pro-democracy protesters sing a protest anthem during a rally at a shopping mall in the Sha Tin district

A woman lies on the ground after she scuffled with protesters when she tried to remove a facemask worn by one of them

Many shops have been shutting early to avoid becoming a target of protesters and due to closures of the metro rail system after several stations were torched and trashed.

Hong Kong’s metro has borne the brunt of protests and only returned to near normal operations on Friday after being completely shut down. The metro, which normally carries around 5 million people a day, will again shut early on Saturday.

Many fear China has been eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms, guaranteed under a ‘one country, two systems’ formula introduced with the 1997 handover.

Pedestrians take photographs with their phone of a vandalized Starbucks in Yau Ma Tei

Apple removed an app from its store this week which reportedly helped protesters track police movements, claiming it was used to target officers

The now-withdrawn extradition bill, under which residents would have been sent to Communist-controlled mainland courts, was seen as the latest move to tighten control.

China denies the accusation and says foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, are fomenting unrest.

US President Donald Trump said in announcing a partial trade deal with China on Friday that he had raised Hong Kong in the talks after previously warning that a deteriorating situation in the city could affect the negotiations.

Source: Read Full Article